City to consider $40M Arts Court proposal

Ottawa's arts facilities are in line for a major expansion and redevelopment if council adopts a proposal submitted by city manager Kent Kirkpatrick.
A report that a city council sub-committee will consider in August recommends a $40.5 million redevelopment of the Ottawa Arts Court ((Google))
Ottawa's arts facilities are in line for a major expansion and redevelopment if council adopts a proposal submitted by city manager Kent Kirkpatrick.

Under the proposal, the current Arts Court space is heading for a $40.5 million two-stage redevelopment.

The first phase of the proposal recommends: 

  • Building new performance spaces on the vacant lot at 60-70 Waller St., adjacent to the current Arts Court location at 2 Daly St., with a private sector development.
  • A separate Ottawa Art Gallery, perhaps in the Lansdowne Park redevelopment.

That phase would cost about $25 million.

Then, in phase two, after the gallery has moved, the space it now occupies at the Arts Court could be renovated for about $15 million and turned over to other tenants.

Arts Court needs more space, chair Susan Annis said. "The activity in there has just burst at the seams." Current tenants want to expand and the theatre needs to seat about 350 people, about twice its current size.

Annis welcomed the plan, which a council committee is to consider in August.

Arts Court houses the headquarters of 26 independent arts organizations, the Ottawa gallery, the Opera Lyra, Art Engine, SAW Gallery, Club SAW (a performance space for an audience of 150) and SAW Video.

She also said the plan for a private-sector highrise above the Waller Street development, using the Arts Court's air rights, "makes good financial sense."

According to the proposal, there is about $12 million in city and provincial money available for an arts and culture facility. About half of that, plus the sale of the property rights, "should cover the cost of the new performance facilities" at 60-70 Waller.

The other $6 million could be used for the new gallery.

Concert hall funds redirected

This leaves the hoped-for new concert hall without any money.

The proposal said the city manager told the Friends of the Concert Hall at a June 29 meeting that "there is little opportunity to advance the project at this time" because there are no developments pending which could incorporate a concert hall. Because of the lack of opportunities for the hall, staff was recommending that the $12 million which had been allocated for that project be redirected to the Arts Court project.

Annis said Arts Court doesn't oppose another needed arts facility, and city staff's commitment to finding a concert hall site is "a really important component of this whole proposal."